How The Grinch Didn’t Steal Easter

The following is the article I wrote for The News Tribune (Tacoma) for this morning’s paper. To God be the glory!


From 1 Peter 1:3–5 (ESV) ~ “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Christians from around the world celebrated Easter last week – the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. But it was not the kind of Easter celebration I had imagined. You see, I have fond memories of brightly decorated sanctuaries adorned with beautiful lilies and filled with lively music with lyrics such as, “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!” I always enjoy seeing the children dressed in their new Easter outfits and seeing visiting family members once again. This year, the day was beautiful with the Mountain out in all its glory, towering behind our church building. But as I stood behind our building gazing at the mountain — and recalling all these Easter traditions — I felt a sense of sadness. It was like the Grinch dressed as the Easter bunny, snuck in and filled his sack with everything Easter, down to the last ham and can of Who Hash. This is not how it was supposed to be.

But if you remember that Dr. Seuss classic, the Grinch – thinking that he had accomplished his fiendish deed – discovered something. Upon hearing the singing in the valley below, as he was basking in the success of his devilish efforts, he realized something.

“He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!”
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!””

[How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Suess]

The hope that comes with Easter is something that does not come in baskets or wrapped in succulent chocolate. The hope of Easter is not dependent on traditions like flowers, bonnets, and music. Easter is so much more. The hope that comes with Easter is kept in heaven FOR YOU and comes through faith in Jesus Christ. The hope of Easter is the fact that Jesus, though crucified and buried, rose from the dead. Jesus did this FOR YOU, that your sins would be forgiven and that you would be reconciled back to God. The “Grinch” has canceled a lot of things, but it could not steal Easter. Though many were not able to gather in church buildings, Jesus is still risen and always will be. And because of this Good News, my heart continues to grow – more than three sizes big. To God be the glory, ALWAYS and forever, Amen.

Alleluia and Amen!

Weeping is done,
The stone has been rolled away,
just look in and see.
Death is no more,
Dry bones now have Life,
Rise up and praise Him.
Receive the Good News,
and shout your praises,
for sorrow has been turned to joy.
Turn from this old life,
confessing your sins,
Forgiveness is yours today.
Jesus is Risen!
He has risen indeed!
Alleluia! Alleluia! and Amen!

I Am Free

Sinner I am to a high degree,
But Jesus my Lord, he died for me.
Unworthy I am, I can’t disagree.
“It is finshed!”, New Life guaranteed.

Praises I sing with a heart full of glee.
Worshiping him, falling down before thee.
“He is worthy!”, that is my loud decree.
Jesus my Lord, through him I am free.

Christ is Risen

Christ is risen,
let everyone shout.
He lives! He lives!
for there is no doubt.

Christ is risen,
his love is so true.
Amen! Amen!
I am made anew.

Christ is risen,
all my sins removed.
Praise be to God!
I have been approved.

Christ is risen,
he lives evermore.
Glory! Glory!
death has no encore.

He is ALIVE!!!

He IS risen! He IS risen indeed, ALLELUIA!!!

There are no amount of words that can adequately express what the resurrection means to the redeemed sinner. Below, is a beginning — words I wrote for the Great Thanksgiving liturgy for Holy Communion. May the joy of the resurrection be an everyday occurrence, not just something reserved for a special Church holiday once a year. Jesus died and rose FOR YOU, for the forgiveness of your sins, and for that, God is to be worshiped and glorified each and every moment of your life. He IS Risen!!! ALLELUIA!!!

It is indeed right and salutary
that we should at all times and in all places
give thanks and praise to you,
oh God.
For You began your plan of redemption
from the very moment sin entered the world.
You did this because of Your amazing love and grace.
It’s hard to comprehend,
that You would save sinners such as us,
but yet, You did,
through Christ Jesus our Lord.
He suffered a horrible death on the cross,
though he was without sin,
that we would not experience eternal torment.
To think on such an act of love,
how does one not fall to their knees in thanks and praise.
Oh God,
You are an awesome God;
worthy of all worship, honor, glory and thanks.
And so with the Church on earth and the hosts of heaven,
we join in singing Your unending praise…

Post-Easter Thankfulness

The Pastor is on vacation.

I am currently resting with family and friends; relaxing and reflecting on another Lenten and Easter season and the verdict is in:

It was good.

Notice that I did NOT say (with a sense of relief):

It is finished.

The jokes are out there, you see, that pastors are so shot after Easter that they feel like crawling into and curling up in Jesus’ empty tomb for a while.

“Don’t talk to me for a few days.”

I don’t feel that way. I feel energized and content and happy and filled. No, I didn’t take a 46 day vacation between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It’s just that the congregation I serve with, served together and thus I don’t feel drained but filled. I gave it my all but was never disconnected from the True Vine. I am not bragging but just thankful. I led worship and preached twice a week, but also worshiped and listened to what I was saying. Lent was refreshing, not life-draining.

And this is the way it should be. Looking back at a season that focuses on our mortality and sinfulness; worshiping while reflecting on Jesus’ last moments and death on a cross and then seeing an empty tomb and then hearing that proclamation: HE HAS RISEN! How can one not feel energized and thankful and joyful.

It is (indeed) finished and I am (indeed) thankful; thankful that Jesus finished what he came to do. Thankful that I have the hope of the resurrection. Thankful that I have been refreshed and ready for another season.

God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.

Holy God,
You have refreshed me
through this Lenten and Easter season.
You have reminded me
who we are and whose I am.
You have shown me the extent of Your love.
May I cling to this Truth.
May I dwell in Your love.
May I proclaim this Good News.
May I continue to know Jesus better.
Oh God,
You are an awesome God.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The (thankful) Pastor -|—

 

An Easter Prayer of Faith

Holy and awesome God,
We come to this place this morning to worship YOU
because of the LIFE we have through faith in Jesus.
But I am keenly aware,
oh God,
that there may be people here this morning
only because they are visiting family
or because grandma and grandpa said,
“You’re going to worship this morning”
or because they were taught this is just what you do on Easter.
Whatever the case,
oh God,
I pray that the words I speak here may have power,
not because I say them,
but because they are ordained by YOU
and infused with Your Holy Spirit.
If it be Your will,
may someone who doesn’t know You come to faith,
so much so,
that they proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
May people be drawn to You
that You may be glorified.
And so, may the words of my mouth
and the meditations of our hearts
be acceptable to You,
oh God,
our rock and Redeemer,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Sermon teaser for Palm Sunday

Here is the opening paragraph for this Sunday’s sermon. May God be glorified…

The holy bookends of Palm Sunday and Easter, encapsulate a holy drama that ends in a sure and certain hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the king of peace, is later mocked as the King of the Jews and then bursts through as the victorious King; one who obliterates sin, death and the power of Satan. We enter this morning in jubilation but leave somber and reflective as we contemplate the events of Holy Week. We enter worship this morning shouting, “Hosanna” which means “save us now” and leave hearing how Jesus does just that. The scope of this day is a microcosm of the holiest week of the year but may we not be satisfied with only this, rather, may we encounter the Passion of Jesus Christ anew as we listen to our salvation unfold and the power of death crumble into oblivion.

May God bless you as you journey through Holy Week; coming through the darkness and emerging into the Light of Easter morning.

The Pastor -|—

Living Easter (Romans 5:6-11)

[From the Easter prayer breakfast at the White House]
“We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country,” Biden said. “We live Easter — and to live Easter is to live with the constant notion that we can always do better.”

NO, NO, NO!!!

That is not living Easter; not even close.

This is living Easter:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. [Romans 5:6-11]

The hope of Easter is not about the notion of us doing better (don’t get me though, we should want to do better all the time), but rather living with the joy that we have been reconciled to God through faith in Jesus. Jesus did better and therefore we should rejoice and celebrate that. And because Jesus did better I strive to be more like him; striving to be more Holy. But the fact of the matter is I know I will fall short. I will takes steps forward but then take steps back. Living Easter is about God and the promise of the empty tomb.

Living our faith?

“We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country,”

What a vague statement. Living our faith is following Jesus and obeying him. If that is what Biden means then great but I have my doubts whether that is what he is getting at. Call it what it is. Living our faith, Easter faith, is living in joy that despite this messed up and fallen world (which will pass away), though faith in the crucified and risen Jesus, we will not pass away. Living our faith is about glorifying God.

That is Easter faith
That is Easter hope
That is Easter joy

If it is about you getting better in this life then you will be sorely disappointed. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and on his perfect obedience that lead him to the cross because we are not better.

Praise be to God that we can have this TRUE Easter faith and hope.

Holy God, thank You that Jesus came to save an imperfect and disobedient people. Help us become more like Your son that we may glorify You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Dwelling and Gazing

image

This here is the Easter hope:

Dwelling in the house of the Lord
Gazing upon the beauty of Lord
Inquiring in his temple

I mean, really, this is the Good News and our hope. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave that we might dwell with him. He didn’t die and rise that we might have a good life now. It really bugs me and worries me when preachers try to sell this message of hope in this life. Scripture says that if in this life we have hope in Christ only then we are most to be pitied. Jesus didn’t die that we may have a temporary hope; a limited hope; a shortsighted hope. Jesus died that we may have eternal life; dwelling in his temple and worshiping him forever.

But something else to think about. Not only will you, through faith in Jesus, dwell in his temple, but you will gaze upon a beauty that is absolutely mind blowing. There is nothing in this universe that can compare. If someone tries to sell you a worldly hope you need to respond:

That’s not good enough. I want more.

And Jesus gives you more.

Praise be to God that our hope is more and better and wonderful and beautiful.

Holy Father, I praise you that death has been defeated and that I can live this life with hope of something more. And I look forward to that day when I am dwelling and gazing on your beauty and inquiring in your temple. All praise and worship be to you, oh God. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Pastor -|—